December 13, 2013
The Consequences of Actually Living the 12 Days of Christmas

For a song that’s on heavy rotation in malls and soft-rock stations this time of year, the “Twelve Days of Christmas” has surprisingly mysterious origins.
It was first published in England in 1780 as a nursery rhyme in the book Mirth Without Mischief, but that rendition might have been predated by an even earlier French version. The song wasn’t set to the tune we now know it by (gooooold riiiiiings!) until 1909, by the composer Frederic Austin. A rendition from as late as 1908 includes the lines, “12 bulls a-roaring” and “11 bears a-baiting.” Sweet dreams, kids!
We also don’t know exactly what the song is supposed to mean. Some think it’s a coded way of teaching Catholic children the Catechism. In Mirth Without Mischief, it was intended as a memory game.
At least one theory holds, though, that the “Twelve days of Christmas” paints an image of a joyous festival, in which seven days of feasting on birds are followed by five more of revelrous dancing and leaping. It’s not as weird as you think: Europeans centuries ago ate most of the animals mentioned in the song, including the “golden rings,” which some think refers to pheasants, not jewelry.
That’s the idea I’d like to embrace today, as I attempt to determine what a “Twelve days” feast would actually look like, nutritionally speaking.
Read more. [Image: nicholasputz/Edsel L/State Library of South Australia/Rosie 55/flickr]

The Consequences of Actually Living the 12 Days of Christmas

For a song that’s on heavy rotation in malls and soft-rock stations this time of year, the “Twelve Days of Christmas” has surprisingly mysterious origins.

It was first published in England in 1780 as a nursery rhyme in the book Mirth Without Mischief, but that rendition might have been predated by an even earlier French version. The song wasn’t set to the tune we now know it by (gooooold riiiiiings!) until 1909, by the composer Frederic Austin. A rendition from as late as 1908 includes the lines, “12 bulls a-roaring” and “11 bears a-baiting.” Sweet dreams, kids!

We also don’t know exactly what the song is supposed to mean. Some think it’s a coded way of teaching Catholic children the Catechism. In Mirth Without Mischief, it was intended as a memory game.

At least one theory holds, though, that the “Twelve days of Christmas” paints an image of a joyous festival, in which seven days of feasting on birds are followed by five more of revelrous dancing and leaping. It’s not as weird as you think: Europeans centuries ago ate most of the animals mentioned in the song, including the “golden rings,” which some think refers to pheasants, not jewelry.

That’s the idea I’d like to embrace today, as I attempt to determine what a “Twelve days” feast would actually look like, nutritionally speaking.

Read more. [Image: nicholasputz/Edsel L/State Library of South Australia/Rosie 55/flickr]

  1. horsehockeybullshit reblogged this from theatlantic
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    12 Days of Christmas
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    Excellent-5 golden ring(ed) pheasants-that makes sense…
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